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Jen Levitt Recommends...

Writers Recommend

Posted 12.22.16

“One practice I’ve found useful for generating new ideas is entering into conversation with other poets, other poems. Though in general the more variously I read, the more I’m able to stretch myself writing-wise. I specifically like talking to poems I love or am confused by or disagree with as a way of clarifying my thoughts. Katha Pollitt has a wonderful poem called ‘Lives of the Nineteenth-Century Poetesses,’ which is a sort of tongue-in-cheek love letter to our popular construction of the Dickinson-like introvert and recluse. I like the idea of a twenty-first-century update or response, maybe changing the tone or the stance but imitating the conceit. Marie Howe’s beautiful and iconic poem ‘Practicing’ about adolescent sexual awakening doesn’t—unfortunately!—describe my own awkward adolescence, so a few of her lines in particular provided a helpful framing for a poem about my teenage years. I recently listened to Steph Burt talk about reading poets of a different time period as a way of opening oneself up; talking to poets from the past feels inherently exciting to me and forces me to read beyond the now. In general, this specific kind of attention to the work of others—poems, paintings, films—helps me both to make visible my thinking and to feel part of a community, which is to say less alone.”
—Jen Levitt, author of The Off Season (Four Way Books, 2016)

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